History for the Rest of Us

Michael Jackson – Thriller

Michael Jackson – Thriller

Nov 30, 2012

One of the top selling albums of all time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, was released November 30, 1982. The recording of the album began at Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles on April 14, 1982. When Quincy Jones walked into the studio, he said to some of the others involved in the recording, ‘OK guys, we’re going to save the recording industry’. At 12:00 noon the actual recording began with Paul McCartney and Micheal singing ‘The Girl is Mine’. The album spent 37 weeks at number one on the Billboard charts. Thriller consisted of nine tracks, seven of which were released as singles. All seven reached the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. Michael indicated that his inspiration for the album was Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker Suite’ because ‘every song was a killer’. Listen on Spotify:Thriller Backgrounds on some of the songs: Beat It Beat It was written by Jackson and was an attempt to make a clean break with the disco sound of Jackson’s Off the Wall album. Quincy Jones and Jackson wanted to make a rock song that would appeal to all tastes, and after weeks of searching for a guitarist, found Eddie Van Halen. Van Halen would later say about the recording ‘Everybody (from Van Halen) was out of town and I figured, who’s going to know if I play on this kid’s record?’ Billie Jean Michael wrote this song with a particular obsessed fan in mind. The most persistant of his admirers he received dozens of letters from her, including one with a gun and a note indicating that since she and her child (which she claimed was his) couldn’t be with him in this life, the three of them should commit suicide on an appointed day. Michael himself became obsessed with the situation and had her picture framed and placed on a coffee table feeling like he needed to remember her face in case she showed up. Quincy Jones didn’t feel like the song was strong enough to be included on the album, but Michael prevailed. Quincy also believed fans would think the song was about tennis legend Billie Jean King and wanted the title to be changed to ‘Not...

Woodstock

Woodstock

Aug 15, 2012

On August 15-18 of 1969, on a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel NY, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair was held. Over a half a million concert-goers descended on the farm to hear 32 musical acts perform. Creedence Clearwater Revival was the first to sign, agreeing to a $10,000 fee. Prior to their signing, the organizers had experienced difficulty in getting major names to agree to perform. Drummer Doug Clifford would indicate that “Once Creedence signed, everyone else jumped in line”. Town authorities were assured by the organizers that they expected no more than 50,000 people. Two days before the event started over 60,000 people had already set up camp. The roads became so congested that performers were only able to access the event by helicopter. Approximately 186,000 tickets were sold in advance for $18. Prices were scheduled to be $24 at the gate, but they quickly became free when it was apparent that hundreds of thousands more people showed up than had been expected. Some of the more notable artists that declined their invitation include: Bob Dylan The Beatles The Doors Led Zeppelin Chicago (Chicago Transit Authority) The Moody Blues Frank Zappa Jethro Tull Roy Rogers was also invited to close the festival singing Happy Trails but declined. Below is the schedule of performers for the event: Friday August 15 Artist Time Richie Havens 5:07 pm – 7:00 pm Sweetwater 7:30 pm – 8:10 pm Bert Sommer 8:20 pm – 9:15 pm Tim Harden 9:20 pm – 9:45 pm Ravi Shankar 10:00 pm – 10:35 pm Melanie 10:50 pm – 11:20 pm Arlo Guthrie 11:55 pm – 12:25 am   Saturday August 16 Artist Time Joan Baez 12:55 am – 2:00 am Quill 12:15 pm – 12:45 pm Country Joe McDonald 1:00 pm – 1:30 pm Santana 2:00 pm – 2:45 pm John Sebastian 3:30 pm – 3:55 pm Keef Hartley Band 4:45 pm – 5:30 pm The Incredible String Band 6:00 pm – 6:30 pm Canned Heat 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm Mountain 9:00 pm – 10:00 pm Grateful Dead 10:30 pm – 12:05 am   Sunday August 17 Artist Time Creedence Clearwater Revival 12:30 am – 1:20 am Janis Joplin with...

The Beatles Release Help!

The Beatles Release Help!

Aug 6, 2012

Voted 331 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”, Help! was the fifth British album and tenth North American album released by The Beatles. The Album was released August 6, 1965. The original photograph on the UK album was printed in reverse. Holding it up to a mirror, it spells, using flag semaphore, the letters LPUS – “Help Us”. (For more information on the History of Semaphore Flags visit the Flag Press blog). The album spent 37 weeks in the Top 20 in the UK (nine as No. 1), and 42 weeks in the Top 20 in the US (nine as No. 1). The album contained fourteen songs, seven of which appeared in the film of the same name. The tracks from the album are listed below. (Click the links, where available, to listen to a sample audio file). To listen to a sample of all fourteen tracks visit the Apple Corps Beatles website: Tracks from the Beatles Help! album – Side One Track Number Title Composer Lead Vocals Length 1 Help! Lennon-McCartney Lennon 2:18 2 The Night Before Lennon-McCartney McCartney 2:33 3 You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away Lennon-McCartney Lennon 2:08 4 I Need You Harrison Harrison 2:28 5 Another Girl Lennon-McCartney McCartney 2:05 6 You’re Going to Lose That Girl Lennon-McCartney Lennon 2:17 7 Ticket to Ride Lennon-McCartney Lennon 3:10 Tracks from the Beatles Help! album – Side Two Track Number Title Composer Lead Vocals Length 1 Act Naturally Russell-Morrison Starr and McCartney 2:29 2 It’s Only Love Lennon-McCartney Lennon 1:54 3 You Like Me Too Much Harrison Harrison 2:35 4 Tell Me What You See Lennon-McCartney Lennon-McCartney 2:36 5 I’ve Just Seen a Face Lennon-McCartney McCartney 2:05 6 Yesterday Lennon-McCartney McCartney 2:17 7 Dizzy Miss Lizzy Larry Williams Lennon 2:53 Related Stories: That’s All Right Sgt. Peppers The Monkees James Brown Quotes on...

Elvis Presley – That’s All Right

Elvis Presley – That’s All Right

Jul 7, 2012

On July 8, 1954, WHBQ Memphis would be the first radio station to play an Elvis Presley song. His recently recorded single ‘That’s All Right’ was played on DJ Dewey Philips’ Red, Hot, and Blue show. Hundreds of phone calls and telegrams would follow. The song was recorded three days earlier on July 5th at the end of a previously unproductive day in the Sun Records recording studio. Elvis Pays $3.98 For Recording Time Sun boss Sam Phillips had been looking for ‘a white man who had the Negro sound’ according to Sun receptionist Marion Keisker. Over and over he indicated that if he could find one, he ‘could make a billion dollars’. Presley had paid $3.98 for studio time in August 1953 at Sun to record a two-sided acetate disc: ‘My Happiness’ and ‘That’s When Your Heartaches Begin’. Keisker made a copy of ‘My Happiness’ that she could play later for Phillips who wasn’t at the studio during the recording. He asked her to note the singer’s name. In January 1954 Elvis returned to the studio to cut a second disc: ‘I’ll Never Stand In Your Way’ and ‘It Wouldn’t Be the Same Without You’. Rejection Over the next few months, Elvis would be rejected by a vocal quartet ‘The Songfellows’ who said ‘[he] couldn’t sing’, and by a band whose leader said he should stick to truck driving ‘because you’re never going to make it as a singer’. Opportunity Knocks Back at Sun Records, Keisker had noted next to Elvis’ name the comment ‘Good ballad singer. Hold.’, and when Sam Phillips acquired a demo recording of the ballad ‘Without You’ he invited Elvis back to the studio. Even though Phillips didn’t feel Elvis did the song justice, he was impressed enough that he asked Presley to sing all the songs he knew. Seeing the potential of the young teenager, he asked two local musicians to work something up for a recording session with Presley on July 5th. Rising From the Ashes At the end of the session on July 5th when everyone was about to give up and go home, Elvis started into a blues song by Arthur Crudup titled ‘That’s All...

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Jun 2, 2012

On June 1, 1967, The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in England, and a day later in the United States. According to Rolling Stone, the album is ‘the most important rock & roll album ever made’ and number one on their list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The Idea Paul McCartney came up with the idea for the album in November 1966 on a flight to London. The idea of an alter-ego group – ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ – gave the Beatles new found freedom. McCartney would say, “It liberated you – you could do anything when you got to the mic or on your guitar because it wasn’t you.” Not only did the album liberate the Beatles, but with the success of the album, other bands were now free to try anything as well. Focus After the final performance of their US Tour in San Francisco 1966 the band members decided it was time to stop touring. They took a two-month break during which they pursued their individual interests and returned to the studio in late 1966 to begin work on Sgt. Peppers. Without the demands of touring they were able to focus their energies entirely on the album. The album was completed in April 1967 after approximately 700 hours in the studio. “A Day in the Life”, the most complex song on the album, and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” required a total of just 8 days to complete. Sgt. Pepper was nominated for seven Grammys winning for Album of the Year; Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts; Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical; and Best Pop Vocal Album. Is Paul Dead? The Sgt. Pepper album would also add fuel to the urban legend of the death of Paul McCartney with many supposed clues in both the music, and on the album cover. Related Stories: Beatles HELP! That’s All Right The Monkees James Brown Quotes on...

Hey, Hey, We’re The Monkees

Hey, Hey, We’re The Monkees

May 18, 2012

More Albums than the Beatles? I was originally a skeptic, but after reviewing information from Rolling Stone, ‘I’m a Believer’. Yes, the Monkees, the band that started out as a TV Show actually sold more albums in 1967 than the Beatles and the Rolling Stones combined. Television Series The television series The Monkees, which ran from 1966 to 1968 was “a TV show about an imaginary band, a band that wanted to be The Beatles” according to Mickey Dolenz. Originally the plan for the show was to feature ‘The Lovin’ Spoonful’, an unknown band at the time. However, ‘The Lovin’ Spoonful’ was already under contract with a record company, so the rights to market music from the show would be out. They scrapped their plans and would look elsewhere. In September 1964, Davy Jones was signed to a long term contract. He was coming off a Tony nomination for his role as the Artful Dodger in the Broadway show Oliver!. Coincidentally, his performance in that role would be seen on the Ed Sullivan Show on the same night that The Beatles made their first appearance on the show. A year after Davy signed his contract, an ad in Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter ran to cast the other members of the band. The ad was as follows: Madness!! Auditions. Folk and Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series. Running Parts for 4 insane boys, age 17-21. Want spirited Ben Frank’s-types. Have courage to work. Must come down for interview. Approximately 400 applied, and three Americans, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork would join the Englishman Davy Jones as The Monkees. Critics Over the years the band has had its critics, particularly because they didn’t write all their own songs and used studio musicians. The Monkees have been seen as a precursor to the modern corporate-manufactured bands of recent decades. Some critics refer to the group as ‘The Pre-Fab Four’. Notwithstanding the critics, the band, together with some of it’s famous songwriters like Neil Diamond and Carole King, was able to string together several international hits including “The Monkees”, “Pleasant Valley Sunday”, “Last Train to Clarksville”, “Daydream Believer”, “I’m a Believer”,...